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Here's What Muslim American Veterans Think Of Trump's Refugee Ban

"Today it might be Muslims, tomorrow it might be somebody else."

Originally posted on
Updated on

“I know how it is to come to America and live the American dream and be safe,” said Ajmal Achekzai, a Marine veteran and a refugee from Afghanistan.

Achekzai arrived in the US at the age of five after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. “I understand how it feels to be a refugee,” he said.

“I appreciate what America has done from my family. My mom would have been a widow or I would have been an orphan if it wasn’t for the refugee program,” he said.

“When I heard that people who can’t protect themselves aren’t able to be protected as refugees here, that hit me extremely hard,” he said.

Achekzai said he is staunchly against the immigration ban due to humanitarian and constitutional reasons.

“As a Marine, you’re taught to protect," he said.

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Mansoor Shams, a Marine Corps veteran, told BuzzFeed News he believed President Donald Trump's controversial executive order on immigration was "inappropriate," "unjust," and "goes against American ideals."

"I think President Trump, as commander-in-chief, has the right, by default, to protect our nation from any outside threats. But to paint an entire country or a nation, or a people, with a broad brush as if they’re all potential terrorists or bad people is what I take issue with," said Shams, a Pakistani American veteran who served as a Marine for over four-years.

Shams said he was irked the US had a "huge hand in destabilizing Iraq," and now Washington has "turned our shoulders" on the men and women of Iraq, especially those that helped and risked their lives for Americans, referring to translators and other Iraqis who worked with the US government during the conflict.

"I was sort of taken aback," Shams said of the ban.

"Of course this ban will do nothing for national security. It serves to cater to his base. There are no facts that back up these claims," Shams said.

"We talk all the time about bullying in this country and how bad it is, and that's exactly what the president is doing [to Muslims]," Shams said.

"Today it might be Muslims, tomorrow it might be somebody else."

Tayyib Rashid, who served as a Marine for five years, told BuzzFeed News he believed the ban is neither, "legally, ethically, or morally correct."

"I feel sad. I feel sad for the citizens of this country because when I took the oath for the United States and the constitution, I took it for enemies foreign and domestic, and I feel like right now we have more domestic enemies," Rashid said, referring to the rise of white nationalism and the alt-right. "These domestic enemies are hell-bent on destroying the nation within."

Rashid believes the ban, in addition to being "inconsistent with the constitution," does little to protect the US from foreign threats. He said he believes the "motivation behind this is truly bigotry and racism."

Radhid now gives speeches and does community outreach so that people can learn about Islam from a Muslim directly — not through the media and anti-Muslim organizations.

"I just want people to know Muslims are loyal to this nation and we've always been ready to sacrifice," he said.

Mohammad Shaker, an Army veteran and former combat medic with the 82nd Airborne, called the list of Muslim countries included in the ban "arbitrary."

"Do I agree with this ban? No, I don't agree with this ban at all," Shaker said.

Shaker, a libertarian who is the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Tampa Bay, added that he doesn't think bans of any form help with the nation's national security interest.

"We’ve bombed so many countries over the last 15 years, from Bush to Obama, not doing that would be the first step in having less refugees needing to come here," Shaker said.

"I don't think it’s going to work," he said of the ban's efficacy, "but I do think it is most likely constitutional. The president has a lot of these powers, but the question is, is it a good thing to do? That’s the question."

Lyndon Bilal, national commander of the Muslim American Veteran Association and a US Navy veteran, told BuzzFeed News that President Trump has "forgotten he works for the American people."

"Apparently President Donald Trump doesn’t understand that he isn’t the CEO of Trump Inc. He works for the American people," Bilal said. "He continues to just speak to his base of supporters and fulfill his campaign promises."

Bilal believes that the ban will endanger American soldiers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, because of the message of exclusion it sends to those who already believe the US has an anti-Muslim foreign policy.

"It’s also empowering to terrorist organizations like ISIS and ISIL, who now have justification to what they’re calling a 'War against the West,'" Bilal said.

Bilal noted that Muslim Americans have fought for the US in conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War.

"The people who don’t know the history and don't know the constitution of the country, for whatever reason, this [ban] emboldens their false narratives as well as their inspiration to hate and blame other people — everyone other than themselves — about the problems in this country," Bilal said.

Talal Ansari is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His secure PGP fingerprint is 4FEE 894C 8088 7E08 E170 A515 2801 7CC6 95D3 11C2

Contact Talal Ansari at talal.ansari@buzzfeed.com.

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